PEZ PROJECT MOOTS: The Frame
It’s no secret we love creating project bikes here at PEZ, and as Charles has set the bar pretty high over the years with builds in most materials and truly one-off paint schemes, the pressure to do something truly different grows with each build. To create a bike that was both modern and different, I looked backwards for inspiration, but chose the very current Moots RSL titanium frame & select components to make it real.
PEZ Sez: This is the first in a series of reviews that chronicle the creation and build of this custom Moots RSL. This is Part 1, where we start with the raw frame. Subsequent entries will look at the individual parts and components that went into this one of kind bike.
The idea started with a Moots RSL titanium frame, the newest road frame in their line, introduced for 2011 to be lighter & stiffer than any road frame they’d made before.
No Moots frame is complete without their famous Aligator – who used to be a toy in the office, and who’s voice squeezed out a “Mooots!” and inspired the name of the company.
Piece By Piece
This build took a long time to plan and create, and this review even longer. As I thoughtfully assembled the parts list and examined why I added each to this build, it became clear that this was more than a simple bike build and review. Taken as a whole it might become somewhat overwhelming, and while the whole is easily appreciated on the road, the examination of each part and component requires more than a cursory footnote or postage stamp sized photo…
Like a fine five course meal, you don’t lump everything on the plate at once, you take each course on its own – to be savoured, appreciated, and digested before the next delightful plate arrives. Only in this manner does the end result become a satisfying feast and not an unexpected trip to the vomitorium.
From The Smallest Idea
Creating a custom build is a lot more than just specing and building up a bike. It’s “custom”, it’s gonna be your baby, (or in this case MY baby) you’re gonna go places and ride rides like never before – just like storybook Mike, it’ll be me and my bike.
I’ve been lucky enough to dream up more than my share of custom builds, but I still think of each one as a special creation – a one off design that (I hope) no one else has – at least not yet. So I spend a fair amount of time noodling up ideas on what “kind” of bike I want, how it should look, and what overall personality it should evoke.
Titamium tubes ready to become bikes at Moots.
Somewhere in my mind was how to mate my growing appreciation of cycling’s golden years – Coppi-esque exploits in the mountains & epic days in the saddle – with a bike that would be a platform for my own two-wheeled heroics – whatever & however I could dream them up.
While the essential personality of the build was to evoke a classic ride from another era, the materials and components are all thoroughly modern.
The whole idea started with a Moots frameset. I’d never ridden one, but certainly knew about them, and had for several years now wanted to see for myself what the folks from Steamboat Springs Colorado have been so successfully building for 25 years.
I really wanted something to celebrate what Moots does best – build titanium bikes, clean, simple, and beautiful – to show off the raw metal materials and how unique they are in today’s world of carbon fiber-everyonehasone-ness.
Uncovered titanium tubes look as distinct as the way they ride. Covering this bike with paint was never an option, and when it comes to titanium, there’s just so much beauty in its natural look and color. Moots gives theirs a satin bead blasting, and in this case, nothing else is needed.
The raw metal ti finish of the frame harkens back to the days before carbon, when a real person welding up the tubes of your frame by hand was how most bikes were made, and the only way you could really be sure it was made right. It’s cool to know that a real person made this, not a robotic assembly line in a faceless factory.
My friend Ron commented on how much he liked the RSL’s looks – and while tube shaping has advanced dramatically in recent years, let’s not forget that when done right, a collection of straight metal tubes can make a bicycle in its purest form.
Moots marketing manager Jon Cariveau told me the RSL was conceived tube by tube and fitting by fitting, to build the lightest road frame in their line, while retaining the ride quality and durability that Moots values so much. (Read the PEZ Interview with Jon here.)
This being my first ride on a Moots, I was eager to see how it all payed off, but anyone who already owns one will know what they mean by ride quality. Maybe more than anything this is the standout feature of this bike… but more on that later. First let’s see how they got there.
Geometry for mine is 73 degree head tube and 74.25 seat tube angle, and the rear wheel is snugged up to the seatube (via the RSL’s slightly shorter chainstays). It’s a tad steeper than more traditional builds, has a sloping top tube, and while it shares geometry with Moots’ CR & Vamoots models, they wanted the RSL to be a slightly more aggressive feel – hence the shortened seat stays.
In the RSL, Moots set out to build their lightest road bike in the line, which for them meant examining every tube from the headtube to the bb shell and all points in between, to make the frame lighter, while still delivering the ride quality and durability they feel makes the ideal bike.
The 1250 gram frame weight is nowhere near the featherweight carbon frames we see now, but with these slightly heavier tubes comes vibration dampening that is simply unattainable in frames with less mass. The natural properties of Ti provide the liveliness that the material is prized for, while the butting designs, shapes, and dimensions of the tubes create the qualities that make this a frame you can ride all day without feeling the fatigue that comes from so many frames that are ‘race-ready stiff’.
The frame set is a collection of thin-walled large diameter US made 3/2.5 Titanium butted tubes, with 6.4 seamless tubes used as the seat stays. The main tubes are sent to Reynolds in England for size-specific butting to Moots’ specs, then returned to Moots’ HQ in Steamboat Springs Colorado for mitering, welding, and turning them into a bicycle. That takes some time and commitment to the cause – but Moots believes Reynolds does the best job refining the tubes for a Moots branded bike.
The top- and down- tubes are double butted to Moots’ specs using Reynolds mechanical internal butting system, where wall thicknesses are redefined by using a mandrel press on the inside of the tube. If you really want to know how this gets done – check out the Reynolds website here.
Moots’ Jon Carivuea explains: ‘The advantage of this system allows us to use tubes that are as thin walled at the ends (thick section) as our lightest straight walled tubes thus reducing the weight of individual tubes between up to 20%. With the increases in diameter and the cold working of the tubes we both increased the strength and improved the grain orientation.”
The Front end and bottom end are about stiffness – Moots uses beefier tubes for the down tube: 1.675 inches (46mm), top tube 1.5 (40mm), and seat tube 1-3/8 (35mm), to help resist the natural twisting forces of pedaling.
The main tubes and seat stays are straight, while only the chain stays curve. They’re all seamless as well, which Moots favors for both clean looks and a ride quality. All the tubes are size-specific and tuned for each size frame.
Each frame is welded by a real person at Moots factory, (it takes about 2.5 hours of welding per frame), and 8-9 hours to get each frame set ready for build up with the parts that’ll make it a complete bike.
The Headtube is built around standard 1.125 inch bearings – often considered small by some in today’s world of the 1.25” and 1.5” headset bearings found in many carbon frames. But long before those big diameter head set bearings, the road world was plenty happy with 1.125” bearings because they work just fine. And in this case the smaller diameter allowed enough weight savings to meet Moots’ approval.
New for 2012: an option to move the head bearings inside.
There is an option (added for 2012) for a tapered 44mm diameter headtube which can take either an internal 1.125 top & bottom bearing set, or an external 1.5 bottom bearing for those wanting a stiffer front end. This 1.5 inch bearing option naturally changes the height at the headtube, so a custom order on the frame is required to re-align the angles according to the rider.
The rear triangle shows off the only curved tubes on the bike – the symmetrically shaped chainstays gently curve to allow crank and shoe clearance across all frame sizes. They’re fairly beefy looking, but they saved about 10% in weight and increased stiffness at the BB by using a thin walled larger diameter tube that is butted at the front from the bb connection backwards. They’re ovalized vertically where they join the BB shell, then just past the curve become round tubes back to the dropouts.
The straight seat stays are seamless – like all the tubes – and chosen for both aesthetics and ride quality. The straight gauge 6.4 tubing is a little stiffer and brittle than 3.2 ti, but the smaller diameter gains some vertical compliance to tune the ride, while adding stiffness to aid power transfer.
The keen observer will notice a small weld around the seat tube about 4 cm below the top. That’s a thicker diameter piece of Ti used for the top section of the seat tube to prevent warping of the tube when welding. That makes sense and again shows Moots’ attention to detail: retain strength where it’s needed, shave weight where it’s not.
Below this top section, is a larger diameter tube butted for strength near to where the derailleur clamps on, and maintaining that thicker wall right down to the bottom bracket. Moots reports a 15% saving in weight on the RSL seatubes.
While some brands ovalize the tubes at the BB along opposing axis, Moots strengthens the area with a welded cross section of tubing to counteract the twisting forces created at the crank area. They could be made stiffer, but the cost would come out of the ride quality Moots wants its bike to deliver.
The rear dropouts are small works of art machined from a solid piece of 6.4 ti, used to reduce weight. They’re not replaceable, but if you bend the derailleur hangar, it can be straightened with traditional methods (ie: let your shop do it).
Note that the larger diameter of the dropout provides a large platform to attached chain & seat stays. This is as solid as it looks.
Moots went with the oversized pressfit BB30 bottom bracket to increase some stiffness at the drive-train center. They use a press fit nylon liner to eliminate any noise between the metal/ti interface between the bb shell and insert.
Attention to detail is everywhere – like in the perfectly aligned cable guides.
This carbon fork is a Moots-own designed in house and oversized, made in full monocoque carbon, with in-molded dropouts. It’s not the stiffest fork I’ve seen, but for a 140 pounder like me, it was plenty stiff, and I liked that it kept front end harshness to a minimum.
I like to think my photos look pretty good, but there’s something about a bike of this caliber that must be seen in person to really be appreciated, like the ‘ping’ when you flick your finger against a tube, or even the satiny feel of ti as you hold the frame in your hands.
There’s a great moment in every bike build we do, when you hold the raw frame before the parts start going on, and you know you’ll never have this time back – they’re only at this stage once. So maybe you’ll want to read this article one more time – just to soak it all in…
While Moots makes 9 stock sizes and will do custom sizes as desired, every RSL is built to order, and takes 6-8 weeks for delivery. They’re offered as a frame/fork for US$4550.00, or frame only for $4195.00
• See the website at Moots.com for a dealer near you and to get your order in the hopper.
In the coming weeks I’ll take you through the addition of each component and full build up of the bike. Spoiler-alert: I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, and mix of parts
NEXT Up I’ll look at the addition of three items that really set the tone for this “old-school” feel – real leather bartape by HandleBra, Hudz retro looking gummy colored lever hoods, and a new issue of a classic saddle from Selle San Marco.